In recent years, arts and culture have become a domain of solidarity and support, and this is exactly the role a theatre festival should assume. Back in the autumn of last year, when we began work on the next edition of the Malta Festival, the situation made us, the organisers of culture, to take a stand, speak out, and actively participate in shaping the world we want to live in
The programme of the Malta Festival Poznań 2022 was developed in response to the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border, racism that the crisis was and is a manifestation of, extreme social divisions and cultural conflicts. The war in Ukraine enhanced our intention to create a festival which would be a space for empowerment and the realization of the collective dream of a more equal tomorrow.
Based on statistics as of October 2021, the population of Ukrainians living in Poland holding a permanent residency card is 293,800 people, of Belarussians – 37,100, Germans – 19,7000, Russians – 13,700, the Vietnamese – 11,200, Indians – 10,900, Georgians – 9,600, Italians – 8,500, Britons – 6,900, and the Chinese – 6,900. That same year Poland received 7,700 applications for international protection from, among others, the people of Belarus, Afghanistan, or Iraq. In connection with the Russian invasion on Ukraine, approx. 3,5mln refugees fled to Poland within three months. How can we share the space we live in with them? How can we build a community life? How can we support them, not only right now but in the long-term, in their day-to-day lives? How can we lend them a voice?
We feel that the Malta Festival Poznań ought to reflect a more diversified social and cultural context that it operates in. We have found ourselves at the beginning of a long process which is both outside- and inside-oriented.
Opening up to the Other is tied with co-creation, responsibility, mindfulness, giving way – this is something we are still learning to do. We clearly feel that it is not conflict, manifestation, and separateness that make contemporary performative arts meaningful, but the search for new forms of expression advocating solidarity and egalitarianism.
The festival does not exert a direct impact on reality (it is not based on the border nor is it fighting on the front lines), but it can act, just as most of us can, on the second line. In a world where holding someone tight has the potential of bringing both death and love, where it can take the form of barbarian violence and tenderness, we want to clearly voice the option we are supporting. The unity in bringing help that we are witnessing right now gives us hope for a better future.
Still, this unity also fills us with dread: it is selective, it excludes people with skin colour other than white, and rejects people who do not look like us. Part of the applications for asylum filed by people fleeing from regimes, wars, and the climate crisis have not been approved by Polish authorities, which is a violation of international law.
We want to confront the reality and do our part to build a less unjust world. This is the idea behind this year’s theatrical, musical, and debate programme of the Malta festival, as well as the children’s programme, and the film and visual programmes.
The artist portrayed this year is the Flemish director Luk Perceval who will present his The Sorrows of Belgium trilogy where he takes a look at the history of his home country, a state without a nation, ever-divided where the problems of contemporary Europe become more distinct as if magnified through a looking glass (its past colonialism, massive migrations, cultural diversity, the right-wing movement). The programme also features the work of artists who problematise their descent, skin colour, their double identity, and a colonialist outlook such as Jaha Koo, Rusnam, Marcela Levi & Lucía Russo, Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, Pablo Ramírez González, Wiktor Bagiński, Olena Apczel, Victoria Myronyuk, Leila Akinyi, and Ifi Ude. We will also showcase artists for whom work is at the same time a manifestation of the need for closeness, contact, solidarity the likes of Trajal Harrell, Olena Siyatovska, Zoi Michailova and Taras Gembik, Igor Shugaleev, Super Besse, and the Bergamot Group. Some of the projects were selected in the No Title open call we addressed to foreign artists, artistic tandems and groups living in Poland. During this year’s Malta Festival, we will also host the first ever summit of the Reagujemy! open network of organisers of culture where its participants will reflect and discuss the mission, programmes, and ways of organising work and relationships with the recipients of cultural events from the perspective of a multicultural society.
This year we are returning to the traditional division into theatre, dance, performance, visual arts and music. This is so not only because it is easier for the audience to find what interests them most in the festival programme. The processes taking place at the crossroads where the arts, education and activism meet have become an integral part of the programmes of many performative arts festivals and culture institutions. A festival should also reflect the social and cultural context in which it operates and consciously shape it by influencing the ways we perceive and evaluate not only art but also the reality itself, generating meetings of artists with selected social groups visible and heard in the public sphere who highlight certain topics. This idea defines almost the entire programme of this year’s Malta without dividing it into the more artistic and the more activist parts. This is why the name Generator Malta will no longer be used to denote a separate social and artistic section of the programme curated by Joanna Pańczak as we are resuming back to its initial function which was the festival city. This year, it will be truly exceptional as it will span across three different venues: Plac Kolegiacki, Wolny Dziedziniec Urzędu Miasta Poznania and the Frédéric Chopin Park. These sites will also be the venues of open air performances using universal language, connecting people of different generations, professions, and cultures (Générik Vapeur, V.O.S.A., Cirkuskus, Michał Walczak), as well as performances transferred from the stages of the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, Zagłębia Theatre in Sosnowiec and a co-production of the Malta Festival Poznań and Łaźnia Theatre of Kraków, workshops for children and adults, community breakfasts, warm-ups and the Forum debates with renowned speakers such as Oksana Zabuzhko, Khedi Alieva, Sylwia Chutnik, Myroslava Keryk, Agata Sikora, Maciej Zaremba Bielawski, Patrycja Sasnal, Piotr Siemion, and more.
As every year, there will be a lot of sitting on the grass together, dancing, laughter and tears and the communal experiencing of the work of performers, dancers, musicians, actors and circus performers – jugglers, clowns and acrobats who will take over the city during the festival. Let us meet open-minded and in solidarity under the same sky and with hope for peace.